Guest Post: ‘More Explicit Material’
Written by Jennifer Lyon Bell (she/her)
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Content warning: This is another essay about pornography with links to the writer’s independent erotic film site (NSFW).
[Image description: Text ‘More Explicit Material’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]
In the bus station by my apartment in Amsterdam, Netherlands, there’s an advertising poster for ice cream bars. Two headless bronzed white bodies, a man and a woman, press up against each other. Their bodies are perfect and their position is perfectly staged. I see sexual imagery like this everywhere, on the advertising posters in the bus stop, in movie trailers… but I have to be honest, 90% of it leaves me kind of blank. It’s sex, but the models and actors don’t look anything like me, their sex feels staged to me, and I find it hard to connect.
When I choose to look at porn, which I do theoretically enjoy, it’s the same problem. The people and the stories and the sex often don’t move me. I so much want to enjoy it, but why can I not connect?
Filmmakers who are vulnerable and honest about their desires create strangely engaging and arousing films, even when we don’t necessarily share the desires of the filmmaker themselves. I learned this by making my own erotic movies for my independent film label Blue Artichoke Films in Amsterdam. Since college, I had secretly craved porn that was explicit, but full of real chemistry and feeling. I had such a hard time finding any. Eventually, I joked I would just have to make them myself if I wanted to see them.
At some point, it was no longer a joke for me, but a true wish. Then, at a party, my producer friend slid into the booth next to me and said “I know how passionate you are about this idea, and I think it’s a good one. I’ll help you do it.” I was overjoyed. But I froze at the idea of what exactly to write first. Her advice was solid: “Write something that you personally find fascinating, no matter what anyone else might think – because art just cannot please everyone at the same time.”
And she was right. I buckled down and started making movies that I found super-hot, even if it was mortifying to admit out loud what I liked. And then when I created Blue Artichoke Films to start bringing my movies into cinemas, film festivals, and homes, I was surprised at how many kinds of people were attracted to them. It wasn’t just women like me, there were men and people of all genders, younger and older, straight and LGBTQI+, kinky and vanilla. Who knew? My own vulnerability and honesty were transcending traditional categories to affect so many more people than I thought possible.
Probably you yourself have never considered making a erotic/porn movie, putting aside the occasional home video! And most of you probably would not choose to. But I’ve discovered that erotic/porn film is an amazing tool to explore your own sexuality.
If you could make one erotic/porn movie, and money and reality were no object, what would you want?
It’s so rare that we have a chance to take an afternoon just to think about and explore our own sexuality – free from the opinions of our partners, friends, and the societal messages bombarding us. What sexual acts do you truly enjoy? What do you secretly want more of? If the sky's the limit, what kind of otherworldly situations and characters would truly transfix you?
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I created my ‘From Fantasy To Film: Design Your Own Erotic Film’ workshop for anyone who wants to address relationships and sexuality in their creative projects (music, writing etc.) in a more authentic way, who wants to open their communication and enrich their personal sexual relationship with their partner, or who simply wants to spend an enjoyable afternoon exploring their own sexuality and learning about themselves.
I started teaching this workshop over 15 years ago, never intending to enjoy it as much as I do. It took me by surprise how open my workshop participants are to sharing their innermost sexual desires with other people. We’ve had participants learn something about their sexuality that they couldn’t wait to get home and share with their partner. We’ve had participants who discovered that they had a hidden kink, and started daring to think about it in their storyboard, being honest with themselves for perhaps the very first time.
Here’s what we do:
Group watching: We take a look at clips from fantastic films of different genres and styles, and showing different types of sexualities. You can see what is possible! Most folks have never seen these films, in part because it’s hard for alternative erotic filmmakers to get our films distributed. So you’ll see a variety that’s hard to find anywhere else.
Solo exercises: You’ll do your own private writing and psychology exercises, for your eyes only. For some you’ll use your memory, for some you’ll use your imagination, and for some you’ll just respond to prompts. Some might be simple, but you’ll be surprised how much creativity you have inside you. Again, you don’t have to share these with anyone at all; they’re just to help you focus on your feelings.
Group sharing: once everybody is comfortable and we’ve established a safe space, we break up into small groups to discuss our favorite ideas and let the group help us refine them. Everything is optional; you needn’t share a thing if you don’t want to. But if you do, your ideas and your sexuality will be treated with respect and patience. I’m always surprised at how helpful and supportive our participants are toward one another. Maybe there’s something special about being able to be honest with strangers, like chatting with a stranger on a train?
Storyboarding: after fine-tuning your idea and thinking about it some more, you’ll take a stab at drawing a storyboard. You don’t need any drawing skills —heaven knows I don’t have any! Stick figures are fine.
Show and tell: Anyone who wants to share their storyboard with the larger group after that is welcome to. I’m always surprised how many shy people suddenly feel confident enough to give it a go! Since I’m an experienced filmmaker, I welcome curiosity and questions about actually producing an idea. It’s also fine to just sit and listen and learn.
It’s an enjoyable – and unforgettable! – afternoon no matter what you learn. And I’m proud that the workshop reflects my personal values, which are at the core of Blue Artichoke Films: Honesty and vulnerability are deeply attractive, openness to other sexualities makes you feel freer with your own, and you can rest assured you are not alone in your desires – we always have more company than we think.
To book yourself onto one of Jennifer’s upcoming ‘From Fantasy To Film: Design Your Own Erotic Film’ workshops, visit blueartichokefilms.com/workshops.
[Image description: Text ‘PRODUCED BY’ on navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]
Jennifer Lyon Bell is an award-winning erotic filmmaker and the founder of Blue Artichoke Films in Amsterdam, where she makes “erotic film for people who like film” with her team. She teaches erotic filmmaking at film schools, film festivals, and universities. She also consults on sex scenes and scripts for TV, film, and erotic film. Instagram: @jenniferlyonbell, Facebook: @blueartichokefilms, Twitter: @jenniferlyonb
‘She Dares to Say’ is an email newsletter by Almaz Ohene, a Creative Copywriter, Freelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
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If you enjoy this content and would like to support please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’. If you would prefer to make a one-off donation, feel free to also send a contribution via PayPal.